As a mom, avid traveler, and owner of a specialized travel company, India is bridged between my personal and professional lives. I promote India, write about India, and have a passion for India. As the wife of an Indian man and a mom to a toddler, traveling to the country has become more than visiting the Taj Mahal and relaxing on palm-fringed beaches. It is now focused on family, home visits, and exposing our son to half of his heritage. My roles and observations are split between tourist and resident, as I navigate hotels, transportation, and a 20-month-old in a country of over 1.2 billion people. Here are my tips for traveling to India with children.
Be flexible and do your research
When we first visited India with our son, Alexander, he was six months old. The entire trip was certainly a learning experience. (Example: We believe in the method of self-soothing. Indians? Not so much.)
We recently returned from another family vacation in India, and I found myself more flexible with the schedule and routine – or lack thereof. I often reminded myself, “It is only two weeks. He can miss naps or eat more sweets from Dadi and Dada.” I also did more research before our departure. Which hotels offer larger rooms or walk-in closets to accommodate a portable crib? Which airline would allow us to check an extra bag for no charge, even on an infant fare?
Find the right flights
Invest time to find the flight options and airline amenities best for your family. From U.S. cities, many airlines offer nonstop or one-stop itineraries to larger Indian airports, limiting your layovers and travel time. We selected Air France and Lufthansa for our visits, both for schedule and the ability to check an extra bag plus portable crib for no charge.
Ditch the stroller
Indian streets can be very crowded with limited sidewalks, so strollers are not recommended. Instead parents of little ones should pack a baby carrier. We learned this the hard way, after bringing our stroller all the way to Delhi only to have it folded in the corner for two weeks. Our second time around, we used our child carrier, which was also an excellent resource for transporting our son between terminals at airports.
Pick a big room
Many Indian hotels are converted forts, palaces, and/or private homes, which means larger rooms for spreading out. We love Maidens Hotel in Delhi. Although Oborei is considered a luxury hotel chain, this particular property is more budget-friendly. The rooms are very spacious, and Alexander loved the swimming pool and peacocks that roam on the lawn.
Pack an inflatable booster seat
With the exception of hotels, it is difficult to find high chairs in Indian restaurants. If traveling with a baby or toddler and you prefer to not have a lap child during meals, pack an inflatable booster seat. We also used it at friends’ houses when Alexander wanted to color or play at the table.
Bring the car seat
Car seats are not a common commodity, so expect questions and pictures from curious locals. Our son thoroughly enjoyed the attention, and made many friends along the way!
Skip the bus
Though buses provide a cheap mode of transport, most are overcrowded and do not offer air-conditioning. Instead, consider hiring a private car and driver, either for a day or proposed itinerary. Not only is it an affordable option, but also it offers more comfort and convenience. It was also nice for us to keep Alexander’s car seat in the vehicle for a multi-day trip, as it saved the time of buckling and adjusting every morning.
Embrace the culture
Finally, immerse in the culture and integrate with the locals. Indians are some of the friendliest people in the world and enjoy interacting with foreigners. Children are considered an integral part of the culture and they are welcomed and included in almost any function or event. So if you are walking down the street and randomly get invited to a wedding, go for it and enjoy the experience!
Would you like to visit India with children? Let us know in the comments!
Allison Sodha is the owner of Sodha Travel, a company that specializes in travel to India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. She has been featured in Little India, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and various travel blogs. Allison resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband and son, but considers India her second home. Read her blog at blog.sodhatravel.com.
Top photo by Doug Raphael, purchased from istockphoto.com. All other photos by Allison Sodha.